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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Music Scene Deserves More Credit

To Ms. Alyce Eaton and Eliza-Eve Leas,

I am troubled by last week’s article on Paducah, particularly the sour tone of the section regarding the Grinnell music scene.

Quite frankly, the quotes identifying Grinnell’s music scene as “deteriorating” in the past three years are inaccurate at best. When the members of Paducah were first years, the music community seemed to be starting a little renaissance. I do not remember much at all about student musicians the year before, but from the very first open mic night at Bob’s, 2009-2010 seemed like it was going to be a great year for music at Grinnell–and it was. Open mic nights continued to be packed with performers and audience members, student bands performed at Alice and Block Party, and [gluestick] put out their own album via [sparc]. There remained, however, plenty of room for improvement. [Freesound] had equipment damaged and stolen, and did not produce a compilation CD.

The next year was even better. [Freesound] organized a three-part “Showvember” that featured a separate night for acoustic, pop/rock, and punk sets. These shows were not without hiccups, but looking at number of performers and audience attendance, I think it’s safe to say they were a success for the music community. Metal band Spliffzkrieg took to heart it’s better to burn out than fade away: they submitted a short film to Titular Head that was nothing more than a wildly clever way to advertise their concert immediately following the film festival (they had already played Alice that day); played their “last” show in Bob’s; and finally rocked the porch of 1008 at Block Party in the midst of a torrential downpour. Another great year, but still no [Freesound] CD.

Last year was the best music year in my time at Grinnell. Showvember was much smoother than the previous year, [Freesound] finally managed to get a compilation CD out, student bands expanded their venues to the Pub and even Harris Center. The highlight for me was the first annual “Grinnellian,” an all-day music festival in the JRC courtyard.

This year the growth and successes continue on an enormous scale. Open mic stayed strong even with Bob’s closed last semester, students perform frequently at both Relish and Prairie Canary, open for [concerts], had a show for family weekend, a house concert on Halloween night; and who could forget Caleb Neubauer’s (2013) enormously epic Sigur Ros extravaganza? All of this in just one semester, and it looks like there won’t be any letting up.

I must take this chance to recognize the music department’s efforts, and to “remember the ladies,” two groups often forgotten. As the [Freesound] community has enhanced, so too has the music department. There have been four MAPs in composition the past two years, a growing interest in electronic music, and a commission from Mohammed Fairouz, one of the most successful composers in the world (this is not an exaggeration). Michael Maiorana (2012) organized two 24 hour composition events, in which composers have 12 hours to compose a piece for an ensemble decided minutes before the process begins, and said ensemble has 12 hours to learn the piece and perform it. Talk about experimental. However, the biggest achievement for the music community is also the biggest failure: for the last three years, women have dominated the scene in numbers, yet they remain sidelined. All of my campus bands had at least one female member, and I’m not unique in that position. The female presence is so strong that Remi, the French language assistant last year, threw a concert in the pub for female bands for his GWS project. Yet I can’t think of a single leadership position in [Freesound] that has been run by a female. This will soon change.

In my overlap with the members of, and in my year here as a “sketchy alum,” the music scene has done anything but deteriorate. I urge the members of Paducah to look more at the big picture, to engage, to be grateful for the growth that has happened, and be humbled by the fact that they are partially responsible. Do not degrade that.

—Erik Jarvis, 2012, an honored music alum

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